Yukon gov't setting up water treatment for Wolverine Mine, despite not talking to new owner

The government wants to discuss water treatment and other environmental issues at the shutdown Wolverine Mine with the new owners.

Gov't wants to discuss water treatment and other environmental issues regarding closed Wolverine Mine

The Wolverine Mine in southeast Yukon has been closed since 2015. (Yukon government)

The Yukon government is setting up a water treatment system at Yukon Zinc's Wolverine Mine, despite not talking to the mine's new owners. 

The zinc-silver-copper-lead-gold underground mine in southeast Yukon went into temporary closure in 2015. In November 2018, Phoenix Global Investment, a B.C.-based company, bought Yukon Zinc. 

The government is putting in the treatment plant to process the toxic water in the mine's tailings pond, because they don't want it to contaminate any other water. 

Bob Holmes, the director of Yukon's mineral services branch, said the government hopes to talk to the new owners within a couple of weeks.

"The only thing we've been informed of is that the sale has concluded," said Holmes. "And that they're working to identify the plans and the actions that they plan to take on site and that they're very well aware of the non-compliance issues and they're planning to address them in the future," he said.

Bob Holmes, the director of Yukon's mineral services branch, hopes a meeting can be arranged with the new owners of Yukon Zinc soon. (Dave Croft/CBC)

The urgent issue is dealing with rising water at the site, said Holmes. He said there is still enough space to hold the water for a couple of years, but the work has to start now.

"We don't want to get to the point where water would have to be released in an uncontrolled way," said Holmes.

The underground mine is full of water, but Holmes said that is simple to treat. The bigger issue is the water in the tailings pond because it contains toxic amounts of the chemical element selenium, and that water needs to be treated. 

He said the government also wants the two portals into the mine plugged to prevent water from escaping.

The government is in the beginning stages of setting up a water treatment system, said Holmes. That work will continue until, and if, Yukon Zinc steps in, he said.

A number of environmental issues at the Wolverine mine will have to be dealt with before it can reopen according to the Yukon government. (Yukon government )

Another issue revolves around $25 million that Yukon Zinc owes to the financial security fund established to eventually clean up the site. The government is currently holding $10.6 million, said Holmes.

He said the company has also not been doing the required environmental monitoring and reporting.

Holmes said the department is investigating these issues and further action may be taken in the future, but he did not specify what that could include. 

The new owner of Yukon Zinc declined to comment.